Remember earlier this month, when economics professor Margaret Brooks’ willfully ignorant slam piece on college Sex Week events all but demanded that universities strip student rights to the point of pre-1960’s era legal doctrine? Her anti-youth, anti-sex, anti-education op-ed first published in The Chronicle of Higher Education made headlines all over the Internet, but it seems both The Chronicle and other outlets don’t care as much about balance or accuracy as they do about page views.
Almost two weeks ago, on September 16th, Dr. Logan Levkoff along with more than a dozen other sex educators, university professors, and student organizers wrote a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, which the Chronicle totally—and cowardly—ignored. Dr. Levkoff writes:
Earlier this month, I wrote about the latest attack on sex – specifically, the concerns that Margaret Brooks, a Bridgewater State economics professor, has about Sex Weeks on college campuses. While the hysteria is unnecessary (but sadly unsurprising), her op-ed was published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, an influential academic journal. In the piece, Brooks spins a decades-old, nationally celebrated sexuality education event series for university students (aka adults) into a thinly-veiled “think of the children!” outcry.
Unlike Brooks, whose one-sided propaganda unsurprisingly cherry-picked facts and presented them in as salacious a manner as she was able (and she’s surprisingly good at that, considering her obvious disapproval of educating about sexual diversity), Dr. Levkoff actually reached out to the students, faculty, and expert speakers of Sex Week events:
Every educator and group contacted was frustrated by Brooks’ mischaracterization of their events and their work. Many of them were outraged that the individual leading the charge against sex-themed programming was an economics professor with no experience in sexuality education.
How Margaret Brooks got an article published in The Chronicle on a topic she is unqualified to speak about by her own standards is totally beyond me. She clearly doesn’t care about the intent of the programming, and judging by Brooks’ thinly-veiled threat to use sexual harassment lawsuits to stop college programming she disagrees with, she clearly doesn’t care about the intent of the law, academic freedom, or student rights, either. That’s why I was so heartened that Levkoff’s and her allies’ Letter to the Editor was so unequivocally supportive.
Since The Chronicle won’t publish it, I’m going to republish the letter here, and I encourage you to do the same on your own website, blog, newsletter, or email list, because we need to stand up for sex educators and the innumerable faculty members and college campuses that support them!
Dear Chronicle Editors,
We were deeply disappointed by your recent publication of economics Professor Margaret Brooks’ op-ed, “‘Sex Week’ Should Arouse Caution Most of All.” It is clear that Margaret Brooks has not only misrepresented herself, but also seeks to discount over 40 years of legal precedent upholding student rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The policies she calls for attack academic freedom itself, representing a clear return to the pre-1960’s-era doctrine of in loco parentis. Moreover, her suggestion to use far-fetched “sexual harassment liability” as a stick to force implementation of her proposed policies is nothing short of outrageous.
In her article, Brooks displays willful ignorance or calculated deception by omitting important information related to Sex Week events, making the article little more than fear- and shame-based grandstanding. She writes that Sex Week events (or those like the ones held during Sex Week) occur unbeknownst to staff and faculty, while failing to remark on her own correspondence with administrators at Brown University, who informed her that they would not shut down the student-organized events, such as KinkForAll Providence or Get Your Heart On: Sex Educator Showdown; they thoroughly investigated her concerns and deemed the programming within bounds of organized student activities*. Brooks’ suggestion that the sole purpose of Sex Week events are to sell sex toys and pornography is incorrect and irresponsible. Readers need merely look at the schedules from various Sex Weeks to see that topics covered have included sex & disability, religious perspectives on sexuality, communication, transgender issues, critical evaluation of sexuality as portrayed in pop culture and pornography, healing from sexual assault, safer sex, and yes, even topics such as traditional families and abstinence.
When Brooks complains about a “lack of balance,” what she’s really taking issue with is a necessary attempt to restore balance to sex education for young adults, after the many years of abstinence-only education most of them have received during their younger years. While the purpose of an opinion piece is to present one particular perspective, given the flaws in Brooks’ argument, as well as her lack of credentials in the field of human sexuality, it is imprudent not to present an alternative perspective. Instead of offering a valuable contribution to the much-needed academic discourse on sex education, The Chronicle betrays an anti-sex education bias unbecoming of a publication of record in higher education.
We, the undersigned, believe sexuality is a key component in literature, history, politics, religion, and popular culture—each of which are topics integral to the activities that Sex Week and similar programs bring to college campuses. Perhaps some people don’t think these are appropriate subjects for college students (most of whom are legally adults) to discuss in an intellectual setting, such as a college or university. That’s their prerogative. However, to suggest as Brooks does that these topics are unsuitable in and of themselves, that their mere mention warrants sexual harassment lawsuits, or that students be barred from exploration of such topics in pursuit of their own education, is nothing short of an attack on the fundamental principles of higher education and should have been seen as such by the editors of The Chronicle.
- Charlie Glickman, PhD
- Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS
- Logan Levkoff, M.S., Ph.D., AASECT
- Shanna Katz, M.Ed, AASECT
- Charles Moser, Ph.D., MD, FACP, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sexual Medicine, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in San Francisco, CA
- Jennifer Giang, ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission, University of California, Davis
- Caitlin Alday, ASUCD Gender & Sexualities Commission Chair, University of California, Davis
- Laura Mitchell, Gender and Sexuality Commission, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, University of California, Davis
- Jason Hans, Ph.D., CFLE, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky
- Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Georgia State University
- Aida Manduley, Brown University Class of 2011, Sex Week Coordinator and Chairperson for the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council
- Caroline McKenzie, Ph.D. student, Women’s Studies, Purdue University
- Dr. DJ Williams, Leisure Sciences
- Elizabeth Anne Wood, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Nassau Community College
- Scott Elman, President of the Student Health Advisory Committee, Washington University in St. Louis
*Editorial Note: September 30, 2010 For clarification, the sentence was amended to include the specific events that Brooks took issue with.
It’s unbelievable to me that The Chronicle would publish an inaccurate and disgustingly backwards editorial by Margaret Brooks but ignore this letter signed by some of the most internationally well-respected Ph.D.’s in sexuality research and education. It seems that rather than face the truthful context showing just how little “concern” over Sex Week is warranted, if any, The Chronicle‘s editors have chosen to run smear pieces followed by cowardly silencing the voices of support for sexuality education instead of choosing accuracy and balance. And that’s where you come in.
While Margaret Brooks’ fear-based propaganda spread across headlines, The Chronicle‘s cold shoulder makes it clear that it and other more mainstream news outlets probably won’t pick up Levkoff’s letter. But, together, we can make an end-run around the mainstream media, The Chronicle, and other outlets that would silence the voices fighting for student rights and nonjudgmental sex education. There are a few ways you can help:
- Tweet a link to Logan’s Huffington Post piece. Here are a few 140-character messages that you can simply copy-and-paste into your personal or organization’s Twitter account:
- “Sex Educators Unite to Support University Sex Weeks” http://huff.to/ckOmLX Us too! We support #SexWeek @LoganLevkoff & other sex educators!
- Great piece in support of #sex #education by @LoganLevkoff: http://huff.to/ckOmLX The @Chronicle should’ve published their Letter to Editor!
- Unbelievable. The @Chronicle won’t publish a letter signed by #SexEd experts http://huff.to/ckOmLX but lets an econ professor bash #SexWeek?
- Send the link to Logan’s piece, along with an excerpt of her post or the full Letter to the Editor to any sex-positive mailing lists that are supportive of campus sexuality education. The link again is: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-logan-levkoff/sex-educators-unite-to-su_b_741788.html
- Crosspost the Letter to the Editor on your website, in your organization’s newsletter, and anywhere else that would be appropriate. (Obviously, I’ve done just that in this post.)
- Email everyone you feel deserves to be aware of attacks on sex education, and who would benefit from supporting them, informing them about my post here as well as Logan’s piece. (I’m gonna go email just about everyone I know.)
Thank you again for supporting sex educators, nationally and locally, and for calling out The Chronicle‘s bias, along with Margaret Brooks’ sex-negativity. Together, we can make a difference. Together, we will create a sexually healthy nation. We have to, quite literally, for our children and our children’s children.